Sugar and It's Health Risks
Sep 21, 2020
Within the Western world we are notorious for our sweet tooth! Many adults and children eat far too many ‘free sugars’ – sugar added to food or drinks, such as biscuits, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and found in foods such as honey, nectars, and syrups. This can cause some serious health issues.
Recommended Daily Intake
The UK government recommend adults consume no more than 30g of free sugars a day, roughly equivalent to 7 cubes of sugar. Many of us exceed this amount on a daily basis, with many of our favourite foods or drinks exceeding, or constituting a significant part of, our recommended daily intake (see Figure 1).
Sugar and Health
Exceeding the daily recommended amount of sugar can have serious effects on our health, including:
- Drain on Energy – whilst sugars initially lead to a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, it is often followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar leading to a ‘crash’ in energy levels
- Increased Risk of Heart Disease – eating too much added sugar increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation
- Increased Risk of Diabetes – a high sugar diet is assoc. with obesity and insulin resistance which are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes
- Increased Risk of Cancer – whilst the relationship is complex, too much sugar can lead to obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation which are all risk factors for cancer
- Risk of Depression and Mood Swings - blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health
- Aging Skin – sugary foods are assoc. with advanced glycation end products (AGEs) production, which is thought to accelerate skin aging and wrinkle formation
- Liver damage – eating too much sugar may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Compromised Immune System – after eating sugar the efficiency of white blood cells can be lowered, compromising our ability to fight disease and infection